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One of the most common mechanisms for collecting details about a product is to issue a formal request for information (RFI) or a request for proposal (RFP) Extensive effort is needed to develop the questions for these requests Some companies hire consulting rms to write the RFI/RFP for them! After the RFI/RFP is issued, the vendors get to work Once their responses are received, there is another big effort to read and understand them One main thing that is learned from an RFI or RFP response is which vendor has staff members who write well Some vendors have departments that are dedicated to writing these responses These groups are staffed with professional writers and often maintain a full database of questions and answers RFI/RFP responses also can indicate which vendors are able to cleverly answer yes to any question or to provide details about their product strengths within the context of almost any (often nonrelated) question asked Unless you are an organization that is mandated to follow this formal RFI/RFP process (such as a government agency), this is not a recommended method for selecting products
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Business Participation in the Selection Process
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The products that the business community will be exposed to the most are those that interface to the data warehouse These are the data access, reporting, and business intelligence products The business community is often asked to participate in the selection of these tools While this can be helpful, your impression of a product may depend to a large extent upon the skill and experience of the sales representative providing the demonstration Looking at tools increases the understanding of what is possible, but do not allow the rst impressions of a demonstration to be the single driving factor in selecting a BI tool
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Part IV
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Understanding Product Genealogy
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With the frequency of mergers and acquisitions in the data warehousing industry, it is worthwhile to ensure that you have a good understanding of the history of any products you are considering working with Find out how long the product has been in existence, other names it has been marketed under, and who may have owned it previously After more than 20 years in the industry, I nd it hard to keep up with some products that have been purchased and renamed multiple times This information can help you with your research to learn about the product Having a long history and multiple names does not inherently indicate a problem; it is simply one more thing to know about a product Another genealogy that is interesting to trace is that of the key product engineers and designers Look at the experience of the key research and development personnel at that company Some product engineers have masterminded multiple tools, with each one surpassing the former
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Understanding Value and Evaluating Your Options
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There is constant pressure on software vendors to deliver more functionality at a lower price point This happens frequently with hardware For example, in the late 1980s, a 10-gigabyte database server (hardware, operating system, and database bundled together) could be purchased for nearly $1 million Today, if you look for a promotion, you can buy a 2-gigabyte disk for a camera for around $20! This reduction in the cost of disk space has greatly bene ted all of us, making it affordable for us to store music, videos, and photos on our personal computers There has been a similar reduction in the cost of the technology to produce, capture, and distribute music, photos, and videos If you look at the data warehousing industry, the technical platforms and disk alternatives have certainly expanded New lower-cost options are available These now enable mid- to small-tier companies to venture into data warehousing in ways that were not feasible in the past Although the price for some technology does indeed go down as it becomes more available, that is not always the case Many of the high-end data warehousing tools are still quite costly These software companies must still invest in highly skilled developers, and sales and support staff, to be able to market and support their products As customers, we demand more functionality for less money, with superior support This is a tall order for any company to achieve To remain viable, technology vendors are under constant pressure to win new business Sales and marketing departments are highly skilled at taking customer demands and then re ning their message to resonate with those requirements Whether the products will actually meet your requirements is another issue The message is intended to keep the company in the running to win your business
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